It’s important to gain some understanding of how the retail industry works, as well as the particular challenges facing the employer.
Every major retailer has IT systems in place to manage a whole range of functions, such as the sourcing of new products, managing distribution networks and in-store point-of-sale systems, and supporting head-office functions (eg HR and finance), and so on – there’s no area of retail that is not supported by technology to some degree. The role of IT within the retail sector is to improve the accuracy and availability of information at every level, and to enable a business to operate more efficiently and effectively.
IT projects may be supported, developed or delivered by internal teams or, when the expertise and/or time are not available in house, outsourced to external suppliers. In the latter case, in-house staff will identify what work is needed, communicate the requirements to the supplier and eventually integrate the new software with existing systems.
Retailers keep an eye on new technologies
It’s important to gain some understanding of how the retail industry works, as well as the particular challenges facing the employer: these could be anything from new competitors to changing market conditions. It’s also useful to keep an eye on emerging technologies – for example, RFID (radio frequency ID) is becoming increasingly important as a way of tracking products through the supply chain.
Applying for graduate IT jobs in retail
You don’t need to have a computing, mathematical or science-related degree to get a graduate IT job in retail! A degree shows recruiters that you have the capacity to learn and apply yourself, which means that you’ll be expected to learn analytical and programming IT skills on the job.
If you do come with IT skills, however, you may be able to specialise in a specific area at an earlier stage and progress more rapidly. An interest in retail and the way business is done is definitely important, as are good teamworking and communication skills. A flexible and open mind will help you adapt to an environment that is constantly changing and reacting to market pressures.
How to get your IT career in retail off to a flying start
Many of the large retailers recruit onto graduate IT programmes once a year. A training programme could last up to two years, during which time you’ll gain experience through working in a number of varied roles. This exposure will allow you to gain a broad view of how the business works as a whole, while also learning valuable programming and business analysis skills.
Within nine to twelve months you could have moved into a more permanent role, allowing you to consolidate your knowledge in a particular area and contribute to significant projects.
Within five years or so you could have reached senior programmer or analyst level; depending upon your experience, capability and drive there are also good management opportunities.
Choose this IT career area if...
- You relish change – you’ll need to be able to react quickly and creatively to new business demands.
- You enjoy variety – you can move between different functional areas relatively easily.
- You have a passion for retail and want to make a tangible difference to a business.
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